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BW Businessworld

SMAC Technologies Will Be Augmented By Machine Learning And IoT

The overall global investments in technology in 2016 are likely to be roughly flat, maybe modest growth given the macro-economic uncertainties

Photo Credit : Bivash Banerjee

As the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the company, Dr Siddhartha Chatterjee is responsible for Persistent Systems' technology leadership both externally and internally. In an exclusive interaction with BW| BusinessWorld, Dr Chatterjee talks about the company's technology roadmap, its digital transformation journey, the technologies of the future and many more. Excerpts:

What is Persistent Systems' technology roadmap in the next 2-3 years?
SMAC technologies (i.e., Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) will remain important, but these are now table stakes. These will be augmented by technologies such as machine learning and IoT (Internet of Things), which we recently demonstrated in our announcement with IBM IoT. Security will continue to grow in importance. As we focus on digital transformation and solutions, we will be emphasizing a platform-centric approach - both with our own IP (e.g., for digital transformation) and with partner IP (e.g., Salesforce, Oracle, Appian, Microsoft, IBM).

What's your focus on the digital space?
At what stage in the digital transformation journey are you in? We see digital transformation as being imperative, as virtually all industries are being disrupted and reshaped by software both at the backend (i.e., how the business is run, also called "systems of record") and at the front end (i.e., the customer experience and the business models, also called "systems of engagement"). To us, the "why" of digital transformation is obvious - we focus on the "how". This is important, because while almost anyone can talk about digital transformation at a 50,000-foot level, a relatively small handful of companies can actually create and execute a roadmap to digitally transform an enterprise at the ground level.

We are a strong believer in practicing what we preach, so we started our own digital transformation journey at Persistent several years ago, through a complete re-design of our internal processes and systems for a mobile-first world. The resulting award winning Persistent Intranet (Pi) today allows me to take almost all management actions (approvals, reviews, etc.) from a suite of apps on my smartphone, anytime, anywhere. We continue to enhance the software-driven nature of our business starting from this foundation, as we continue to add functionality on a regular basis.

How important is innovation for you? What's the strength of your R&D team and where do they fit in the company's overall strategy?

Innovation is critical and central to Persistent's business strategy, as this is essentially why our customers hire us. Innovation happens at all places in the company, from our delivery teams to our architects to our research lab to hackathons we hold internally and with customers. Our focus is on applied research - i.e., innovation in the form of bringing technology to bear on relevant business problems. A lot of our R&D focus is around data and analytics, as we see this as the growth engine for digital transformation. We also do some targeted research in technologies that we feel will become important 2-3 years down the line. In this vein, we have done a lot of work on next-generation genomics platforms which is now being delivered to our healthcare and life sciences customers.

Finally, we engage with a select group of top-notch university research groups such as the Biocomplexity Institute at Virginia Tech and others in India, Europe, and the US on longer-term research that is relevant to Persistent's business. Innovation for us can be demonstrated in various ways: for example, the fact that we have won the "India's coding powerhouse" award at the national Code Gladiators competition demonstrates that our developers remain at the cutting edge of technology.

Which would be the technologies to look out for in 2016?
We published a Technology Outlook earlier in the year identifying eight game-changing technologies for enterprises in 2016. At the business level, there are (a) Mobile user experience and (b) Internet of Things. At the data and analytics level, we list (c) Adaptive Security and Data Governance, (d) Data Lakes, and (e) Interactive Visualization at Scale. At the enabling technology level, we see (f) Machine intelligence, (g) Blockchain, and (h) Containers.

Given the macro economic scenario, how do you see global investments in technology pan out in 2016?
The overall global investments in technology in 2016 are likely to be roughly flat, maybe modest growth - given the macro-economic uncertainties that you have identified. However, if we look at the spend at the next level of granularity, we expect a shift in spend from IT modernisation to enterprise digital transformation. We expect that with our focus on digital transformation based on platforms and solutions, we will be able to capture a bigger chunk of this spend and thereby drive significant growth.

Very recently, you have acquired Australia-based PRM Cloud Solutions. What's you acquisition strategy? What do you look for in an acquisition?
Our acquisition strategy is fairly surgical in nature: we look for targets that either fill a gap in our product portfolio (e.g., Citrix CloudStack), add personnel with specific skills (e.g., RGen and Akumina), or give us access to new customers (e.g., PRM). And, of course, the business case has to close.